• QUOTE FOR TODAY

    "God is pursuing with omnipotent passion a worldwide purpose of gathering joyful worshipers for Himself from every tribe and tongue and people and nation…Therefore let us bring our affections into line with His, and, for the sake of His name, let us renounce the quest for worldly comforts and join His global purpose."
    -- John Piper

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  • James 2:14-17

    What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?

    In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

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Are We Irrelevant?

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted.   Too long.   It goes this way, I suppose.  Life events tend to dictate when we can write (or sleep for that matter) 

Anyway JP Troglio wrote a post over at I Hate Church that would be worth a few minutes of your time.  It got me to thinking about a question that many have asked before…..is the church in America becoming irrelevant?

I don’t mean irrelevant from the stand point of the culture and being ‘cool’ enough to reach this generation (the emerging churches clearly have this portion covered…to a fault).  I’m talking about significantly impacting the world around us.  I think we’re failing.  I think we’re content with being insignificant.  I think we like the safety of our friends and family around us on Sunday and we don’t want to get our hands dirty.  We don’t want to be uncomfortable.  I think (as JP points out) that we want big numbers because it makes our “club’ look good and it makes us look like we have our act together and that we are having an impact, but sadly, we’re missing the point.  It’s not about the performance….it’s not about the show or the rush to the doughnut table after service.  It’s not about the songs we’re singing or the sermon series or where we worship, for that matter. It’s about introducing people to God and letting him work.

Folks, it’s time we start getting real about the Gospel and taking it to the people and stop being so worried about what people may think about us.  Yes…I’m writing this as much for me as I am anyone who cares to stop by and read this.   If we cared about people the way that God cared about us, I think we would daily have to fall on our face in worship at the work God was doing.  It would be our natural response. 

I’m going back to work now….but I don’t think I’m done writing on this subject.   More to follow.

 

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Jumping In

Kristen at We Are That Family wrote this post titled Someone is Waiting for you to Jump In yesterday.  Would you take a minute, head over to her blog and read the post?  After that would you begin praying about where God might want you to jump?  Here’s a little excerpt to challenge you:

And the truth? Standing at cliff’s edge, we wanted to say no. We asked if there was another way. We researched and begged. We cried it is too big, we can’t, we are afraid, we don’t know how.  We don’t want to love mercy.

We didn’t throw caution to the wind. We didn’t just jump into the chasm of the unknown.

We jumped into the very hands of God.

Why? Why do the uncomfortable? Why go beyond the comfort zone and risk so much? Every one of us has a unique purpose for our lives and our blogs. It’s a risk finding that purpose. It leaves you exposed and open to criticism and fear and failure.

  Would you also pray about helping them with Mercy House?

Mission Trip Musings

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten days or so wrestling, reflecting, and stewing.   I’ll admit it:  I’m kind of confused.  It seems to me that after a spending a week in Mexico digging, pushing, lifting, building, smashing, sweating, serving, setting, pouring, and generally laboring, I should feel something more.  In my mind I suppose I thought I should have a better sense of what God wanted me to learn, and what he wants me to do next.  I should be emotionally overwhelmed by God’s grace and strength and mercy and have this enormous desire to DO SOMETHING.  Shouldn’t the raw emotion of the experience overwhelm me and naturally drive me to the next thing? 

Oh, I’ve been praying for direction…asking for Him to show me something. Something that I can do or something I can say.  You know what keeps coming back? 

Surrender.

 That’s it.  Surrender.  I read a book, I see it.  I listen to a podcast, I hear it.  Surrender.

I’m like: WHAT DO YOU MEAN SURRENDER, I DID SURRENDER!!!  Didn’t you see me get on the plane?  Didn’t you see the trowel…the bricks…the mortar?  How about the thumb, did you happen to catch the thumb? (Because it’s a constant reminder for me that I was there doing what you wanted me to do.)  Should I take out the pictures?  You could see me in quite a few of the pictures, stupid goatee and all, doing what I know you asked me to do. 

Surrender.  That’s all I’ve been hearing.  And until this morning, I didn’t get it.  This morning I read James 4:13-14:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

 Yeah, I’ve heard it before.  I’ve read it before.  But this morning I came to the realization that I’m not living it like I should be.  A week of a “little more surrender” than usual (and the ‘usual’ probably wasn’t much if I’m honest with myself) isn’t what God was teaching me.  He was telling me that it’s not about me.   He was telling me that a week in Mexico every other year isn’t the pinnacle of what He wants for my life.  Somehow (careful, this might hurt) I don’t think Mexico was all that big insofar as God’s ultimate plan is concerned.  I know that he stirred in people’s hearts.  I know that he did amazing things in the lives of the mission’s team, and the lives of the people we helped in Mexico.  But for all of the amazing things He did, I can’t help but think that God has a whole lot more for all of us.  He has a lot more for me. 

Ultimately, I have no control over my life and what will happen to me.  I hate that.  But, I figure I have a choice:  Either I can live a guarded, safe, controlled life or, I can acknowledge the fact that I have no control and simply surrender. 

Surrender is hard.  In fact, it really scares me at the moment.  It means I will worship beyond my capacity to worship.  It means I need to love beyond my capacity to love.  It means I give beyond my capacity to give.  I need to share with a boldness that is way outside my comfort zone.  I need to serve with a general disregard for my own comfort. There will be risks, fears, failures, and huge screw-up’s. 

None of this is new.  I have heard it before.  I’ve ignored it for the most part, but I’ve heard it.  Having convinced myself that I was doing what God wanted, I tuned out when the surrender message arrived.  That was stupid.  (For those of you who were sending the message, I am sorry if I ignored you.)

So let me ask a few questions:  What might happen if I surrender…I mean really surrender?  What would happen if I lived with the realization that every breath, every word, every step was granted by God?  He gave it, he could take it away.  What would happen if I worshiped God every Sunday with the same emotion and abandon that I worshiped him with on October 11?   What would happen if I pressed ahead every time I had fear or doubt, but knew what I had to do? (Airplanes and scaffold come to mind).  What would happen if I spoke when he told me to?  WHAT WOULD HAPPEN? The answer is:  I don’t know.  I hate that answer.  I need to know.  I need to know the plan, potential outcomes, strategies, solutions.  I need to know…..and then it comes again:

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

If you knew me say six or seven years ago, you might look at me now and say:  “Wow, he’s really changed…God has gotten a hold of him.”  That may be true.  But I have to tell you that a move from 20% surrendered to 40% or 50% surrendered is still well short of the mark.  Metaphorically speaking, I could boast that my glass is half-full.  Somehow I think that God sees it as half-empty (and there’s a big crack in the glass.  That bothers me.  I hope it bothers you for me.

This surrender thing will take strength.  I don’t have it, but I know where to get it.

You know, it’s amazing:  the Bible often refers to us as a vapor, a mist, a cloud, a breath…here then gone. Did you see your breath the other morning?  Didn’t give it a second thought, did you?  That’s how we are:  Here then gone.  Yet for the brief instant that we are here, God not only created us, he named us, protected us, loved us, planned the whole thing out, and even restored us when we rejected him.  And his plan continues to unfold, and all he wants is for me to jump in and live it.  There’s the strength.  And there’s my weakness.

I feel a little better now.  I got an answer…and a bunch more questions.  I know I’m going to mess this up, probably today.  And again tomorrow….maybe not the next day, but there’s a pretty good chance I will botch it then too. 

I told my wife right after I got home that I was going to write something about Mexico.  I knew that I would—it’s what I do.  I tried to write several times, I really did.  After a sentence or two I would trash it and move on.  For me, Mexico wasn’t just about Mexico.  It’s about today and tomorrow and the day after that.  That didn’t make any sense until this morning.  Yes, it takes me a while sometimes.  For those of you who have been waiting for me to say something about Mexico, I’m sorry it took so long. 

For the record, I wrote this for me.  I’m going to need to refer back to it tomorrow, and the day after that.  Accountability, I suppose.  I’ll share it with a few people—people who aren’t afraid to smack me upside the head and let me know I’m only at 40%.  If you are reading this, maybe you are one of those people.  Or, maybe you’re at 40% too.

I am the Way

In John 14 Jesus encourages and comforts the disciples, especially Thomas, with the familiar statement:

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

For me this is crystal clear.  Especially in the context of the rest of John 14 and the multitude of miracles Jesus performed in the name of The Father.  When I read this passage (and many other passages) I am saddened by a recent report from the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.  You can read a news story on the report here or link directly to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

The report indicates that 57 percent of evangelical church attenders said they believe many religions can lead to eternal life, in conflict with traditional evangelical teaching.  Most notably, 70% of Americans with a religious affiliation shared that view, and 68 percent said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings of their own religion.

So, between 60% and 70% of people who either have a religious affiliation, or are regular evangelical church attenders have no idea that the Bible says that the way to Heaven is through faith in Jesus Christ, and accepting him as one’s personal Savior.  This is not about Non-believers.  This is not about agnostics or atheists.  This is about people who either attend church regularly or would claim to wear some kind of religious label.  70% of those people who have darkened the door of a church with at least some regularity have no clue that Faith in Jesus Christ is the way to Heaven.  Those same people say that the Bible has many different interpretations. 

I have to ask a few things:  When did this happen?   How did we get so far off track?  Is this because too many pastors have pulled back from preaching the true word of God?  Do people want to be entertained?  Are the so called Mega-Churches too concerned with their book stores, and coffee bars, and full collection plates that they can’t even effectively communicate that Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven? 

D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion said it best:  “The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep,”  

Pray for revival in our churches.  Pray for revival in our cities and towns.  Pray that God will convict people of their sin and church leaders of their misleading ways.

The Same Jesus

 I’ve continued to ponder my recent post on Tolerance or Truth, and the blog that started it all at John Shore’s page.  Perhaps this phrase will make you mad, but I can’t tolerate your sin.  No follower of Christ should ever tolerate sin – theirs, or anyone else’s!  I can deal with your unbelief.  I can handle your doubts.  I will face your criticism.  I will field your questions.  I will not apply the Bible conditionally.  I will not water-down the Gospel to suit your cultural tolerances. I will not shift a single word of the truth to accommodate your modern ethics.  I will not tolerate your sin, I can’t do it!  Jesus didn’t tolerate sin, and neither will I.  (By the way, presenting a watered down version of the Gospel that is filled with half-truths for the sake of evangelism is contrary to the life Jesus led.)

 

I began to look (again) at the life of Jesus as described in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  This time with an eye toward understanding how Jesus reacted to sin.  If my requirement as a Christian is to emulate the life of Jesus, I certainly have some ground to make up. I know two things for sure: 

 

First, Christ had tremendous compassion for people.  Second, Christ never said that sin was OK.

 

I am finding way too many people today who want the compassionate Jesus, but don’t want the Jesus who is calling them to repent.  Folks, the Jesus who called the Pharisees ‘a brood of vipers,’ is the same Jesus who healed the 10 lepers.  One minute he is raising Lazarus from the dead, the next minute he is condemning the religious leaders for their piety.  His whole purpose on Earth was to live so that he could die.  On the cross he demonstrated his hatred of sin and his love for you at the same time.  Jesus death was the only way to restore man unto God.  It still is the only way. 

 

Giving up one’s life for another is love.  Giving one’s life for all of humanity is true love.  Giving up one’s life for a sinner is amazing, compassionate love.  Jesus lived his life knowing the ‘end game.’ He healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the poor, and encouraged the weak.  He crossed ethnic and racial bounds to challenge the pious and comfort the poor.   In his short time on Earth, he lived in such a manner to give us an example to follow each and every day of our lives.

 

But, Jesus’ life was not about the miracles.  He was outraged by sin and called everyone to repentance — everyone.  He drew everyone unto himself to forgive them and free them from a life of sin.  I cannot find one account of Jesus telling anyone that their ‘sin’ was OK.  If I am intolerant because I love you enough to tell you the truth, then so be it.  If you want to deny the truth, feel free.  Do not ask me to adjust the truth to accommodate you.  I can’t do it. 

 

In the end, you have to get out there and get your hands dirty.  You have to be willing to serve others.  You have to be willing to give of yourself, sacrificially.  You have to build a relationship with God and rely solely on his strength as you have compassion for others.  Only then will you be in a position to call others to turn away from their sin.  When you humble yourself before men, you will gain tremendous power to judge their sin and encourage them to turn from it.  Jesus was never afraid to call a sin a sin.  He was never afraid to call a sinner a sinner.  Neither am I.  Are you?

Tolerance or Truth an analogy

Let me try to illustrate my last post with a little analogy.  I know this is open to all kinds of interpretation, but I will try nonetheless.

  Let’s say my friends and I go out to dinner and  I order a Ceasar salad.  Throughout dinner I rave about how good it is.  One of my friends, intrigued by my obvious enjoyment asks what is in the salad.  I describe the seasoned crutons, and crispy Romaine lettuce.  I talk about how cold it is since they served it in a chilled bowl.  Finally I describe the savory Caesar dressing with anchovy paste. 

 At this point my friend is not sure he will like the  salad because of the anchovy thing, but decides the chilly bowl and crispy lettuce sounds pretty good.  So, he orders his own Caesar salad but sternly tells the waiter that he doesn’t want any of that anchovy dressing. 

 Is the waiter being intolerant when he explains to my friend that what he ordered is not a Caesar salad, but rather a bowl of Romaine and crutons?  Am I being intolerant when I join with the waiter and suggest that without the dressing, the salad will be bland and pointless?  

Let’s say we convince him to get the salad with the dressing and he totally and completely hates it.  Wouldn’t it be better to have him experience the whole salad in it’s intended form?  What if he just gets the lettuce and crutons and absolutely loves it.  What happens when tells all of his friends about this awesome salad he had, when all he had was a bowl of lettuce?  What happens when they go to the same restuarant and order the Caesar salad and it’s not what they expcted based on my friends description of the lettuce, crutons and bowl.  Is it fair for them to call the chef out and tell him how lousy the salad is based on an errant description?  I’m just asking!

I understand that this is a really loose analogy, but the point I am trying to make is this: 

There are certain principles of being a Christ follower and calling yourself a Christian.  Frankly, some of them are difficult.  (Like repentance).  You must believe that Jesus died to take those sins.  You must know that God’s grace is bigger than any of those sins.  And you must acknowledge (and turn away from) your sins.   Following Christ is not about any good works you do.  It’s not about going to church every Sunday.  It’s about your heart and ultimately, only God knows your heart.

 God Bless you in this day

When God Cleared His Throat

It’s funny how we need to keep going back to the Source of power in our lives. You’d think we’d just stay there, wouldn’t you?  Without even realizing it I was growing complacent. I guess it was kind of sneaking up on me. Regular time alone with God every day. Church on Sunday. Prayer on Wednesday night.

Then it came, like God was sitting behind me in church last Sunday and all he had to do was ‘clear his throat’ You know, the way a dad gets his sons attention when something is awry?Right there in the middle of the message, my pastor starts talking about all the stuff that we do that is a total waste of time.  You know what I’m talking about?  Yes, distractions.  He had a few things on his list that wouldn’t necessarily be on my list, but the point is, I know there are things I do that don’t always ‘bear fruit.’  Here are a few things on my list:

Reading and forwarding totally unimportant emails

Reading articles at foxnews.com and NASCAR.com. 

Talk Radio—although there are some redeeming qualities here

Adventure Fiction novels (Clancy, Cussler, Coontz, etc) 

I have to admit, this is the second “wake up call” in the last few months.  A while back Pastor points out that “if we claim to be Christians, but we aren’t reaching out to the lost then we may not be the Christian we claim to be.” This message came before the offering. It wasn’t part of the sermon for the day. I think God just placed it on his heart. (Maybe just to get my attention, I don’t know.) No one was taking notes. No one saw it coming, but there it was. And he kept on going. “You need to be praying for your co-workers….You need to be living like Christ every minute…Invite your friends to church, if they won’t come, bring it to them. Stand in the gap for your friends, neighbors, and everyone else who is apart from God” and then the big one:

“I am praying that God will make you BOLD”

Whoa!

At home later that day, the kids were playing and I was making eggs and such (our usual routine again!) My wife sensing the ‘mood’ I was in asked what was wrong. I laid it out there for her. I explained that just as I was getting comfortable in where I was at with God goes and pushes me further. He makes me examine everything (again.) Asks me to step back and take inventory. My wife (in her wisdom) just left me to continue pondering.So, I am going to ask you a few things.   What are you doing that isn’t bearing fruit.  Don’t take this to mean you can’t have hobbies or relax now and then, but when you engage in a particular activity, is there something better you could be doing.  Combine that with this question:  What are you doing for the Kingdom?   

It’s no coincidence that these little messages within the message were designed to go together.  Maybe God has cleared his throat for you too, huh?

My prayer will be for boldness. For me, and for you too.

Blessings